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A Domain By Any Other Name
How To Put Your Personal Stamp On E-mail

General, Smart Computing, November 2001 -- If you’ve ever wanted your own unique e-mail address , you may be surprised to learn it’s fairly easy to get. Whether you want an address to reflect your personality, your hobby, or your business, it all starts with establishing your own domain name. A domain name is part of a URL (uniform resource locator), or Web address. For example, our URL is http://www.smartcomputing.com, and smartcomputing.com is its domain name.

The .com at the end is called a top-level domain, which varies depending on the site. There are six top-level domains: .com, .org, .gov, .net, .edu, and .mil. Businesses and individual users use .com; network-related sites use .net, although anyone can use .net as an alternative to .com; and non-profit and private organizations use .org. That was the original intent; however, now anyone can use these three domain names. The other three domains are .mil for the U.S. military; .gov for the U.S. government; and .edu for educational institutions. You cannot use the latter three domains unless you fall into one of those categories.

You can alter domain names by adding .tv, .cc, or .ws, which function as top-level domain names. For example, if http://www.smart.com doesn’t work, try http://www.smart.cc. Network Solutions began registering new top-level domain names in August 2001, such as .biz and .info; as of press time, it’s planning to begin using the names in November.

Letters vs. Numbers

Each address corresponds to an assigned IP (Internet Protocol) address, which is a series of up to 12 numbers that computers recognize. When you type a URL, your computer knows this is an IP address and routes you to the appropriate Web site. If you type in an Address field (not in the Search field), you’ll get Smart Computing’s home page, just as you would if you had typed the URL We humans use the DNS (Domain Name System) because it’s easier to remember a name than a series of numbers for each Web site. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) coordinates the Internet’s address system, including domain names, IP address numbers, the Internet’s root server system, and protocol parameter and port numbers. This private, non-profit group doesn’t run the Internet but oversees it. ICANN was formed as a response to a U.S. Department of Commerce White Paper (http://www.icann.org/general/white-paper-05jun98.htm), but it has no governmental authority. Because the Internet has taken off the way it has and spread globally, ICANN has assumed the responsibility for overseeing the DNS internationally, as well as domestically.

The easy part is deciding which domain you fit into; the more difficult part is actually getting the domain name you want.

What’s In A Name?

To register your domain name, go to an acting registrar, such as Network Solutions (http://www.networksolutions.com), and type the name you want in its database. Searching is free. A domain name can have up to 67 characters (63 plus the four-character extension, such as .com). A domain name doesn’t include the “http://www.” part of the URL, nor does it accept spaces or other special characters, such as an exclamation point (!), question mark (?), or asterisk (*).

This is where the process can get tricky. A Web address is like your permanent street address on the Internet, which means no two Web addresses can be the same. Network Solutions alone has registered more than 12 million domain names since 1993, so you may find that the domain name you’d like is already taken. If the registrar is able to, it will offer variations of the name with other extensions (.net, .com, or .org). You may need to experiment if your first choice isn’t available. For example, you may want to use your name for your domain name. If using your first name with a .com extension is taken, try using your full name. If that doesn’t work, add a hyphen between names or use your first and middle names.

Another tip that may help you get the name you want is to try country codes. Because .com, .net, and .org are generic, they have no specific country affiliation. Country codes act as generic domain names, but they end with a two-letter extension. For example, .au is Australia and .cn is China so your domain name could be yourname@yourbusiness.au. Rules for use vary among countries, so check with the registrar before attempting to register a name with a country code if you don’t live in that country. It’s also somewhat expensive to register a country code domain name: $199 a year per name in addition to your generic domain name’s fees, but it’s something to think about to prevent unauthorized use of your licensed name, brand, or trademark.

You can also check to see if the domain you want is for sale, but this can get pricey. Network Solutions has a link (http://www.greatdomains.com) where you can browse a catalog of preregistered domains. Let’s say you want to start a flower shop Web site, but the name isn’t available. Check the catalog to see if there’s a name that would work. At the time of this writing, the forflowers.com domain can be yours for $35,000. Of course, there are domains that have an asking price of $500, as well as names that cost even more. The general rule is that the more generic a name is, the more value it has. If you want to buy the domain America.com, you’d better be prepared to shell out its asking price of $30 million.

If that’s too rich for your blood, put yourself on a waiting list. Because a domain name has to be registered, it has to be renewed, or it will expire. Once the registration expires, the name is again up for grabs. If a name you want is taken, you can check to see who has it by clicking the WhoIs Lookup link at the top right corner of Network Solution’s homepage. We typed smartcomputing.com, and sure enough, it’s registered to our company at 120 West Harvest in Lincoln, Neb. The information includes the registration and expiration dates. When you register a domain, you’ll also be included in the WhoIs database.

First Come, First Served

Once you find a name, you must register it. Your term starts when your registration order , the last step to finish registering, is complete. Registration usually takes 24 hours, and fees are nonrefundable. Registering with Network Solutions costs $70 for the first two years per domain name, and $35 a year, per name, after that. You can renew in one- to 10-year terms. Even if you don’t plan to build the Web site immediately, register your name. Registration prevents cybersquatters, people who register domain names with the sole intent of selling them later for a profit, from snapping up your name before you do. As we mentioned before, no two addresses are the same so if you get the chance to reserve a name, you should before somebody else does. Otherwise you may find yourself bidding considerably more than $70 on a domain.

Making A Name For Yourself

Now that you’ve reserved your space, you can set up your e-mail account. At Network Solutions, a personalized e-mail address is $60 per year (additional accounts are $30 each) and includes your Web address. For example, your e-mail address would look something like this: you@your-name-or-your-business.com. You keep the e-mail address as long as Network Solutions is your host.

In addition to 10MB of space, your e-mail account lets you block spam (junk e-mail) and send and receive attachments of up to 4MB. The account includes features, such as Web-based e-mail and POP3 (Post Office Protocol) compatibility to access your e-mail anywhere. You can add features, such as a Starter Web Page Package, Search Index Service, Trademark Search, and Web forwarding. Web forwarding, or pointing, lets you point your URL, as well as your domain, to another. For example, you could point http://www.your-business.com to http://www.smartcomputing.com. Or if you have a country code domain name, you can point that domain to your generic .com name. The cost for these extra services ranges from $12 (Web forwarding) to $410 (Full Screen Trademark Search).

Other domain registrars are similar. Yahoo! Domains registers .net, .com, and .org domains and has a package that includes a Web address (with up to 67 characters); a Web card (a template-based Web page that includes your name, two photos or logos, and contact information); Web forwarding capabilities; an e-mail account (a POP account); and online account management features, such as payment options, for $35 a year per name. Charges are the same as Network Solutions, but Yahoo! (http://domains.yahoo.com) has features that would cost extra at Network Solutions. Yahoo! sells extra e-mail accounts in blocks of five for $5 a month for family and employees. There’s also an option to upgrade your Yahoo! Domains e-mail account to 25MB (as opposed to its standard size of 6MB) for $19.99 a year.

If you have a domain and want to make Yahoo! Domains your host, you’ll pay $10 a year to switch. You’ll still be responsible for the renewal fees to your domain registrar because that’s where you originally registered. Go to Transfer A Web Address and fill out the information. Yahoo! Domains sends you an e-mail with further instructions. (Network Solutions’ transfer fee is $199.) It may sound like more trouble than it’s worth, but you may find another host with a package that better suits your needs. New domain names registered with Yahoo! Domains only pay the $35 a year. Yahoo! Domains was also taking reservations for .biz and .info domains at press time.

Yahoo! Wallet stores your credit card, billing, and shipping information so you don’t have to keep typing it in each time you buy or order a service from Yahoo!. When you set up a domain with Yahoo!, you’ll be prompted to create a Yahoo! Wallet account if you don’t already have one.

As long as you keep your domain renewed, you keep your e-mail account. When your renewal date approaches, some registrars e-mail or mail you a reminder. If you miss the deadline for payment, your domain can be released. Some registrars, such as Yahoo! Domains, will renew your domain automatically.

So whether you want your name to be quirky or straightforward, having your own personal e-mail address can be beneficial. It can help embed your name or your company’s name in people’s minds, and it can make it easier for friends, family, and clients to remember how to contact you. If you’re interested in getting your own e-mail address, think about the pros and cons of the name you want. Changing your name later can cause unnecessary confusion for others and unnecessary headaches and expenses for you.

-- i-DNS.net shall not be held liable for the views and opinions of the authors expressed herein.

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